Batie murder suspect’s brother mostly mum on witness stand
The tantrum-throwing, paper-tossing twin brother of a suspected killer behaved a bit better on the witness stand the second time around.
The last time he was on the stand a few months ago, Marquis Skillman, the twin brother of suspected killer Maurice Skillman, tossed the written statement he gave Trenton detectives to the ground and kept his eyes downcast, never eyeballing jurors.
He wasn’t helpful to prosecutors or defense attorneys at the first trial for Maurice Skillman and alleged accomplice Hykeem Tucker, who are charged with murder in the slaying of off-duty Mercer County corrections officer Carl Batie.
Batie was shot in the head in the early-morning hours of Nov. 11, 2012 as he stood on the deck of the Baldassari Regency banquet hall.
At the first trial in February, Marquis Skillman, who was not charged in connection with Batie’s murder, cursed at court officials and responded 57 times that he didn’t know or didn’t remember what attorneys were talking about when they asked him about information he provided to authorities during a January 2013 interview with Trenton Detective Scott Peterson.
On Tuesday, during the murder retrial, Marquis Skillman still wasn’t much help to prosecutors, repeating the same foggy memory routine.
But he wasn’t as combative with Assistant Prosecutor James Scott.
Wearing a crisp white button-up shirt, his hair in tight cornrows and a scraggly beard on his face, Marquis Skillman largely refused to testify about what he told detectives in the interview. He had acknowledged in the interview that he and his brother had driven together to the banquet hall on the night of the murder.
But this time, Marquis Skillman didn’t toss his statement. He just played dumb when the prosecutors asked him whether he met with Peterson on Jan. 9, 2013.
During the interview, Marquis Skillman picked Tucker — whom he knew as “Tex” — and his brother out in photos.
As defense attorneys pointed out, he was not asked to identify them as the suspects in a murder.
Marquis Skillman, who is incarcerated awaiting sentencing on his own robbery charges, pretty much told the prosecutor he couldn’t pick Peterson out of a photo lineup of to save his life.
The portly Peterson is one of Trenton’s most recognizable detectives.
Marquis Skillman was asked if it would help him remember if Scott described the husky homicide investigator.
He’s white, standing about 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighing 270 pounds, the prosecutor said.
Marquis Skillman stared back blankly. Didn’t jog his memory, he said.
He remained that way for most of the 30 minutes he was on the witness standing, responding marginally better to questions from defense attorneys.
Prosecutors plan to show jurors the tape of Marquis Skillman’s interview with detectives.
The tapes from Baldassari were also the focus of much of Tuesday’s testimony.
Ronald Kinnunen, a detective in Trenton Police’s technical services unit, was pressed up about the process it took to get surveillance footage off the banquet hall’s “antiquated” surveillance system.
Kinnunen said he copied the footage minute-for-minute onto a camcorder in a time crunch.
Detectives rode him to get large swatches of the tapes so they identify people who they needed to speak with as part of the investigation into Batie’s murder.
He was asked repeatedly, and responded again and again, that he felt the quality of the surveillance tapes was not impacted by the steps he was forced to take to ensure the surveillance was preserved.
Kinnunen often used techie jargon, which was made worse when combined with his cop-speak-riddled testimony, in explaining to jurors the steps he took to download the surveillance tapes.
The tapes are the cornerstone of the prosecutors’ case against Maurice Skillman and Tucker.
Peterson, the lead detective, is expected to guide jurors through the surveillance tapes begining Wednesday. He is expected to testify the rest of the week.